“Disney Genie,” a new digital planning tool that promises to enhance the way you plan for and experience a trip to Walt Disney World Resort was announced in 2019. Originally set to debut in late 2020, the service launched with much chaos and many problems on October 19, 2021. Following the release of full details on Disney Genie, Genie+, and Lightning Lane and a training session with the Disney staff, we were immediately struck by how overly complicated it had been made and predicted widespread confusion and frustration. We weren’t disappointed. Learn more about these services below.
1 – Disney Genie – Comlimentary Planning Tools
Disney Genie is a new digital planning service that is available to guests at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort within the My Disney Experience and Disneyland apps. The service has launched at Walt Disney World, but not yet at Disneyland. Disney Genie is complimentary (not to be confused with Genie+ which is a paid service) and is designed to give guests more “flexibility” and give guests tools to “help you make the most of your visit.” Tools include giving guests customized itineraries and suggestions based on interests and top picks. Other features include forecasted wait times, experience tip board, dining tip board, and guests can ask the app questions to get information.
We’ve seen demos of these new tools and seen them in action at launch. We have to say with this part we’re impressed. We do believe these complementary tools will improve the average guest’s experience and make for a better vacation. We encourage all guests to check out the new tools and use the recommendations as it makes sense for your family. Locals and annual passholders may find they don’t need the suggestions, since generally, they are very informed on what they can and want to do while visiting Disney, but these tools are fantastic for first-timers or guests who have not visited in a few years and who may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available.
Tip: Be sure to update your My Disney Experience app to the latest version. You’ll likely need to do this before you see the Disney Genie tools.
2 – Disney Genie+ – Add On Available for Purchase
Disney Genie+ is a paid upgrade that includes everything in Disney Genie along with additional services and benefits. The biggest benefit of Disney Gennie+ is access to Lightning Lane (formerly the Fast Pass line, more on this later) on select attractions, allowing guests to (theoretically) save time by skipping the standby line. Please note, not all attractions will be available for this service. Other benefits of Genie+ include Disney parks-themed audio experiences and photo features to capture your memories – augmented reality lenses for those visiting Walt Disney World Resort. Pricing at Walt Disney World is $15 per ticket per day. For a family of five that would be an additional $75 per day. For a seven-day vacation, that is an additional $525 for the week, if purchased every day.
3 – Purchasing Genie+
If your tickets or passes are not included in a vacation package, Genie+ can be added on a day-by-day basis. When purchased with tickets or a vacation package ahead of time, Disney Genie+ is purchased for the length of stay (all days of a multi-day visit). However, you can wait and purchase on the day of the visit, which would be for a single day. You can purchase Genie+ right in the My Disney Experience app.
Note that at this time, Genie+ is not included as an annual pass benefit for annual passholders. Disney has also confirmed that annual passholders will not receive any discount on the Genie+. Passholders can choose to pay for Genie+ at $15 a day per person.
4 – Lightning Lane with Genie+
The biggest benefit with Genie+ is the access to the new Lightning Lane, another new service offered at Walt Disney World. It’s basically the replacement for the FastPass entrance, except now it requires guests to purchase access. There are two ways to purchase access to the Lightning Lane: Genie+ and/or Individual Lightning Lane Selections. We’ll take a look at how Lightning Lane works with Genie+ first.
Lightning Lane replaces FastPass+ and, in many ways, functions just like the original FastPass with guests being given a specific one-hour time window to experience the attraction. You will not be able to choose a time–you are given the next available window, just like the old paper FastPass. Also, please note, guests who purchase Lighting Lane access will not have unlimited access to Lightning Lane lines. Guests must book-specific return windows, one attraction at a time, within the app. Access to the Lightning Lane is limited to one time per attraction per day. So, once you’ve ridden Tower of Terror, you will not be able to book that attraction again that day. You would need to use the regular stand-by line.
Access to Lightning Lane for the majority of available attractions is included in Genie+. Lightning Lane access at Disney’s most popular top-tier attractions (such as Flight of Passage, Seven Dwarves Mine Train, etc.) are NOT included in Genie+. Lightning Lane access for Disney’s most popular attractions can be purchased on a per-ride basis for an additional fee by guests using either Disney Genie or Genie+ (more on this later).
In the past, FastPass was a fantastic benefit that allowed guests to choose three attractions each day to skip the line. This option was free to all guests and a huge selling point for Disney on how they differentiated themselves from other parks. Guests wanting to skip the line no longer have the option to do so without paying an extra fee.
5 – Making Your Genie+ Lightning Lane Selections
Guests will no longer be able to plan out their vacations 30-60 days in advance as they did with FastPass+. With the new system, all guests can make their first Lightning Lane selection (for non-top-tier attractions, more on this later) at 7 am on the day of their visit within the My Disney Experience App. After that, guests can make one selection at a time, based on availability. With FastPass, guests staying at Disney World hotels got early access to FastPass selections. It was a major benefit to staying on property.
6 – Lightning Lane Attractions Included with Genie+
Here are the Lightning Lane attractions that are included with Genie+:
- Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
- Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin
- Dumbo the Flying Elephant
- The Haunted Mansion
- “it’s a small world”
- Jungle Cruise
- Mad Tea Party
- Magic Carpets of Alladin
- Mickey’s PhilharMagic
- Monster’s, Inc. Laugh Floor
- Peter Pan’s Flight
- Pirates of the Caribbean
- Splash Mountain
- The Barnstormer
- The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
- Tomorrowland Speedway
- Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid
- Disney and Pixar Short Film Festival
- Journey Into Imagination with Figment
- Living with the Land
- Mission Space – Green and Orange
- Soarin’ Around the World
- Spaceship Earth
- Test Track
- The Seas with Nemo & Friends
- Turtle Talk with Crush
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Alien Swirling Saucers
- Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage
- Disney Jr. Play and Dance
- Frozen Sing-Along
- Indiana Jones Epic Stunt Spectacular
- Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run
- Muppet*Vision 3D
- Rock ‘n’ roller Coaster
- Slinky Dog Dash
- Star Tours – The Adventure Continues
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Toy Story Mania
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- A Celebration of Festival of the Lion King
- It’s Tough to be a Bug!
- Kali River Rapids
- Kilimanjaro Safaris
- Na’vi River Journey
- The Animation Experience
- Feathered Friends in Flight!
7 – How Many Genie+ Selections Will I Receive a Day?
After you enjoy your first Lightning Lane experience, you can make another selection. In this way, it is similar to the original FastPass system when guests would receive one ticket at a time at the entrance to an attraction and get another after that FastPass was used. After using a Lighting Lane pass for an attraction, guests can check available boarding times for other attractions in the app and make their next selection.
Do note that you will be assigned the next available window to come back to that attraction. If your wait time is over two hours, a Disney spokesman shared with us that the system will let you make another Lightning Lane reservation after two hours. So, if it’s 12 noon and you are assigned an attraction at 4:00 pm. At 2:00 pm, you’ll be able to reserve another attraction. You don’t have to wait until after the 4:00 pm attraction to make another selection. In another scenario, if your first return window is say, 12 noon and the park opens at 9:00 am, at 11:00 am, you would be able to make another Lightning Lane reservation. To put it another way, you may make another Lightning Lane selection after using the one you have or two hours after making your last reservation, whichever comes first.
It’s still too early to tell how many attractions guests can expect to visit using the Lightning Lane option, as this will be based on crowd levels and availability. Note there is no guarantee of a certain number of attractions, such as three with the old FastPass+ system. Like FastPass and FastPass+, the number of Lightning Lane attractions guests can fit into a day will vary wildly depending on crowd levels and the number of guests purchasing the service. One of the biggest complaints we’ve heard on launch day was that return windows were very spread out and that guests had to wait a long time to get their next window. This of course reduces the overall number of attractions you can visit with Lightning Lane during the day. We’ll have to continue to see how the system works and (hopefully) improves as more guests use the service. However, guests purchasing Genie+/Lighting Lane access should not expect to run from ride to ride all day. That is not how this works.
8 – Lightning Lane: Individual A la Carte Selections
The second way to access the Lighting Lane is to purchase individual a la cart selections for certain attractions. For top-tier (most popular) attractions such as Star War: Rise of the Resistance, Flight of Passage, Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, etc., guests can schedule a time to arrive at up to two attractions each day using the Lightning Lane entrance for an additional fee. These attractions are subject to limited availability and are NOT included with Disney Genie+. Do note you will be able to select a specific time for your individual Lightning Lane attractions.
Prices will vary by date, attraction, and park, and at this time, are in the $7-$15 range. Disney has stated that throughout the year, prices may be lower on some days and higher on others, based on demand. This is no different than how resort prices and even ticket prices fluctuate. Again, this offering is per person. So if you have a family of five, you’ll pay an additional $75 to secure the Lightning Lane for Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance.
9 – Purchasing Individual A la Carte Lightning Lane Selections
Lightning Lane selections for the top-tier individual attractions will also be made on the same day of your visit and can be made across multiple theme parks (great for those who have the Park Hopper Option). Access to purchase Lightning Lane for the individual top-tier attractions will be available to all guests when the park that attraction is at opens. Guests staying on Disney World property will receive the benefit of early access to top-tier reservations and can make their purchases at 7:00 am on the day of their visit. Again, guests not staying on property will be able to purchase access when the park opens. For non-resort guests, you do not need to be in the park to make your a la cart selections at park opening.
Tip: Rise of the Resistance is proving to be the most popular A la Carte Individual Attraction. On 10/19/21, by 8:01 am, the attraction’s return window was already assigning return windows in the evening. By 10:07 am, the Lightning Lane had sold out. If you want to purchase Lighting Lane access to Rise of the Resistance, plan on securing them right at 7:00 am if you are a resort guest, or right at park opening for non-resort guests.
10 – Individual A la Carte Lightning Lane Attractions
Individual A la Carte Lightning Lane Attractions:
- Seven Dwarfs Mine Train
- Space Mountain
- Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure (Free Virtual Queue available)
- Frozen Ever After
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance
- Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- Avatar Flight of Passage
- Expedition Everest
11 – Remember Genie+ and Individual Lightning Lane Attractions are Different Paid Offerings That Give Lighting Lane Access to Different Attractions
To offer guests “flexibility” (Disney’s words, not ours), these two services are separate and they give access to different attractions. We know it’s confusing. We’ve heard so many people complain that it’s unnecessarily confusing. Many guests may think that purchasing Genie+ gives them access to all Lightning Lane attractions when they do not. Eight attractions must be purchased separately to access the Lighting Lanes. Individual Lightning Lane passes for the top-tier individual attractions can be purchased by any guest using either Disney Genie or Genie+. In fact, most guests may simply prefer to use the Individual Lightning Lane selections and skip Genie+.
12 – Not Paying is Still an Option!
Disney is still offering the standby queue for most attractions, and you do not need to pay extra. Simply get in line and wait. Do note that there are attractions that do not have traditional standby queues. At this time, Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure offers only virtual queue access (still free) and Lightning Lane access (paid).
Since launch, regular standby wait times have been minimally affected. In fact, they haven’t significantly increased. The only thing we noticed on launch day, was that because Rise of the Resistance had closed down quite a bit, they did close the regular stand-by queue in order to get the Lightning Lane guests on the ride. So there is a chance that if you don’t make any purchases, the stand-by queue will close for Lightning Lane guests if necessary. Again, it’s still too early to tell how regular wait times will be impacted. As more guests become aware of Lightning Lane, the standby queue wait times will likely increase. The upcoming holiday season will be interesting to watch.
Tip: If you want to enjoy Rise of the Resistance without purchasing access to the Lightning Lane, head straight for the attraction at rope drop, to give you the best possible chance to ride it since it does experience technical problems somewhat regularly, and does go down. As the day goes on, there is a greater chance they will close the standby queue to allow Lightning Lane guests to ride the attraction, if there are multiple closures.
13 – This All Sound Really Complicated!
Yeah, it sounds that way because it is. In our opinion, Disney has made this way more complicated than it needs to be. Charging extra for FastPass was always going to be a very controversial change that will enrage the majority of Disney guests. Making the system complicated and charging extra on top of charging extra for the popular attractions will make the situation exponentially worse. Our hearts go out to the cast members that are going to have to explain a thousand times a day to angry guests, “Yes, you paid $15 extra per person for Lightning Lane but not for the popular rides. That’s only for the low to medium popularity rides that usually don’t have that bad of a wait anyway. You have to pay even more if you want to use the Lightning Lane for rides where it’s really important.”
Launch day was full of technical glitches, frustrated guests, and a lot of confusion. But we also saw many people thrilled with the offerings and loved every minute of it. Disney certainly has a lot of kinks to work out. We’re gathering more information and will pass on our tips and tricks to using the system. Be sure to sign up for our newsletter so you don’t miss a thing!
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